Michael Petrella, 26, of Seaville, was sentenced to 364 days in the county jail as a condition of five years of probation by Superior Court Judge John Porto in Cape May County. Petrella pleaded guilty on Dec. 18, 2014 to one count of third-degree misapplication of entrusted property. Petrella must pay restitution of $19,308 to the fire company, and he is permanently barred from holding public employment.
Petrella joined the fire company as a member in 2006 and was made treasurer in 2010. He admitted that from 2010 to 2013, he fraudulently used fire company funds to reimburse himself for personal expenses, including beer, diapers and assorted personal items. Petrella purchased these items, kept the receipts, and then issued fire company checks to himself to cover the cost.
Petrella’s crime was discovered during an internal investigation which the fire company began in January 2014, when it discovered that its former chief, Eugene Spiegel, 52, had reimbursed himself for expenses in excess of $45,000 that he had not actually incurred. Spiegel also signed off on reimbursement for fraudulent training expenses for his son in the amount of $1,275. Spiegel resigned on Jan. 15, 2015 and pleaded guilty in June to second-degree conspiracy. He was sentenced on Sept. 14 to five years in state prison.
The charges against Petrella and Spiegel were the result of an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau and the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau. The investigation determined that Petrella’s thefts were unrelated to Spiegel’s.
Deputy Attorneys General Jon Gilmore and Peter Lee prosecuted the two men for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Detectives Laura Wheeler, David Feldstein and David Engelhard handled the investigation for the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau.